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Ex-police chief Ken Lay to lead consultations on Melbourne’s second injecting room

Mr Lay will work with health and drug reform experts, and consult with residents and traders on the government’s preferred location for the second trial – at the cohealth community health service, opposite the Queen Victoria Market in North Melbourne.


Market stallholders and residents have already expressed concerns about the proposal. City of Melbourne lord mayor Sally Capp and deputy Arron Wood said they were not consulted on the idea.

The cohealth service in Victoria Street offers services including drug and alcohol counselling, and homelessness and mental health services.

The government has said it remains open to any alternative site that meets its criteria.

The City of Melbourne recorded 51 overdose deaths between 2015 and 2019, second only in the state to the City of Yarra, which recorded 93 deaths.

Mr Lay will also lead the neighbourhood renewal project in North Richmond, using $9 million recently announced by the government to improve amenity and perceptions around the injecting trial room in Lennox Street. That includes $3 million for projects identified with locals.

Cohealth Central City, near the Queen Victoria Market, is the chosen site for the state's second medically supervised injecting facility.

Cohealth Central City, near the Queen Victoria Market, is the chosen site for the state’s second medically supervised injecting facility.Credit:Justin McManus

The state government accepted all recommendations from an independent review of the North Richmond facility, extending the trial for another three years after the initial two-year program finished last month.

The review found the injecting room in North Richmond safely managed 3200 overdoses by March this year, and saved at least 21 lives in its first 18 months.

But it found the facility had not improved local amenity, and had not helped with the community perception of discarded needles. Community support in North Richmond dropped in the first year of the trial, the review found.


Consultation on the second facility will consider drug activity and harms, existing services, safety and amenity, transport options, policing and infrastructure. That work will be presented to Mr Foley by the end of the year.

“We’ve listened to the advice of health experts since the very beginning of this project and we’ll continue to be guided by them on the appropriate site for a second injecting room,” Mr Foley said.

“We’re pleased to have someone of Ken’s calibre lead this process, his vast experience across a range of areas means he’ll be able to listen, collaborate and provide the well-rounded expert advice needed for this life-saving facility.”

Mr Lay, a former Essendon Football Club board member, stepped down as chairman of Ambulance Victoria and as Victoria’s lieutenant-governor to take the bushfire recovery role.

Emergency Services Minister Lisa Neville said Mr Lay travelled more than 7000 kilometres and visited 32 fire-affected communities in the bushfire role following the summer fires.

The post of Bushfire Recovery Victoria chairman will be dissolved and in part handed over to Emergency Management Victoria Commissioner Andrew Crisp, with operational management being handled by Bushfire Recovery Victoria chief executive Lee Miezis.

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